Football fans the world around have been eagerly awaiting news about the Premier League. The beloved tournament was put on hold in mid-March but is finally slated to return this June. It is not difficult to imagine the relief that must have swept through the offices of the world’s online casinos when the return was announced. Not only is sports betting back on, but we can once again cheer on our favorite teams in one of football’s most exciting tournaments!
The world’s favorite tournament
In normal years, the Premier League is the most celebrated football tournament in the English football league, and in the sport as a whole. It usually provides almost non-stop action, with seasons from August through May, and each of the 20 teams playing all of the other teams in both a home match and an away match. That adds up to an exciting amount of games, and determines many fans’ Saturday and Sunday plans throughout the season.
Whether fans watch on television at home or in the pub, or live in the stadium, the atmosphere surrounding the tournament is unmatched. It’s the most-watched league in the whole world, with hundreds of millions of people tuning in to the games. Plus, some of football’s fiercest rivalries are between English football teams, so everyone enjoys coming out in support of their team.
A quiet couple months
Unfortunately, all of that came to a screeching halt this March. As the whole world faced crisis and many Premier League players and staff fell ill, the organizers made the difficult decision to halt gameplay. They canceled dozens of matches, making this the first English football season to be stopped since the Second World War. This unsurprisingly left fans in limbo, unsure of when things would be back to normal and if the season would be able to go on.
Starting in April, as things calmed down a bit, the league began to discuss how they’d restart the games. Players were allowed to start training again in mid-May, though it was by no means a normal training regimen. In the interest of safety, they had to work in small groups for shorter periods of time than usual. There were social distancing and testing requirements, too.
At the end of May, it was decided that the League would start back up on June 17. The second-tier English soccer league, the EFL Championship, will begin shortly after on June 20.
While this is good news for football fans, it isn’t exactly a return to normal. There have been lots of conversations among players, team management, and fans about what the restart will look like.
One concern has been about the fairness of using the tournament results to determine relegation. Teams at the bottom of the Premier League each season are in danger of being relegated to the next league down, the EFL Championship, for the next season. Several teams toward the bottom, including Watford, Aston Villa, and Brighton, are concerned about the fairness of this. They claimed that playing games under unusual circumstances may unfairly cause them to be relegated, particularly if the whole season isn’t actually played out. There’s no firm word yet on how this will be addressed or if there will be a different solution for determining eligibility for 2020-2021.
Another concern has been about player safety. Several players, including some top names, have voiced concern about returning to play too soon. Many players are choosing not to return this season for health reasons, for both themselves and their families. Some players have claimed that the league was being restarted because of financial pressures, while it may not be fully safe to return to play yet. This same argument has been had in many other sports as well, as leaders have had to weigh huge cuts in their profits against the well-being of their players.
A unique season
With these same concerns about player safety in mind, the governing bodies of the sport have had to make decisions about what games will actually look like when they start back. The main concerns have been around maintaining proper social distance to keep both players and fans safe. As in many other pro sports, the decision has been to play closed-door games to empty stadiums. This would certainly change the atmosphere for players and fans alike. It’s possible that later games would have restrictions loosened depending on the situation at that time.
Additionally, the Premier League has discussed the possibility of holding certain games in neutral venues to avoid travel. They are hoping that the number of games affected will be minimal.
Many of the normal broadcast practices will change too. With so many fans unable to see games live, there will be increased demand for easy access to games. In normal seasons, they are broadcast on a paid channel, and therefore can’t be accessed by everyone. The League has been working out a deal with broadcasters for greater accessibility. BBC Sport will air four games, and the free channel Pick will air 25. This should make it much easier for fans, at least those in the UK, to watch the games. This will at least take away some of the sting of not being able to enjoy games in the usual exciting live environment.
Picking up where they left off
When the action came to a stop back in March, defending champions Manchester City were still playing strong, including having bagged the biggest home win of the season over Watford back in September (8-0).
Liverpool have also been key players this season, though. They’ve won 27 of their 29 games with a total of 82 points. They also have lots of broken records to boast about. This includes tying the record for consecutive wins in the Premiere League (at 18, until losing to Watford in February). They still hold a record for consecutive home wins at 22.
Other tournaments and sports
The Premier League isn’t just important in and of itself, but also determines who qualifies for the Champions League and Europa League. However, as sports have been halted all over Europe, the fate of these leagues is currently also up in the air. Matches have been suspended until further notice, but their governing bodies will surely be watching how other league restarts go.
Around the world, most sports are slowly taking off again. The Spanish football league La Liga will be back June 11. The NBA is expected to come back in late July. Horse racing has already begun in some places in the United States. On the other hand, some events, like the PokerStars Barcelona Championship, have been canceled for 2020 altogether. Sports fans and betters alike will be eagerly awaiting a return to normal.